12 November 2019 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of a Meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee held on 12 November 2019 at 6.30pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall.
Cllrs B Austin, D Bretherton, N Champken-Woods, P Cowell (Deputy Mayor), D Dodds, M Dyer (Chairman), L Emery (Deputy Chairman), H Fickling, S Francis, C Jones, A Midwinter and J Tipping
G Hunt, Town Clerk
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
There were no apologies for absence.
The Town Clerk reported apologies for absence for the Community Services Manager and Office Administration Manager.
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
The Town Clerk reminded members that a dispensation was in place for those Councillors who served as a Thame Museum committee member or were otherwise involved, to fully partake in the discussion on Thame Museum (Agenda Item 16).
3 Investment Portfolio
Mr Rupert Baron and Ms Lizzie Hart of Rathbones presented the annual review of the Town Council’s Investment Portfolio.
Rupert said the portfolio allowed Rathbones the freedom to act, within the mandate, to maximise the bottom line value of the portfolio whilst maintaining a low risk.
The fund value currently stood at just over £1.8m, with £28,000 of income generated equating to a yield of 1.6%. Over the last year the portfolio had underperformed against some benchmarks but overall it was performing satisfactorily.
Lizzie talked through the investment portfolio analysis on pages 4 and 5 of the report. The portfolio is diverse and represents different sectors, which assists in reducing risk. Highbridge Tactical Credit had performed worst over the year, whilst Fundsmith LLP had performed the best. Several of the investments had benefitted from the US Dollar and US markets doing well, partially due to a weakening pound, as well as an increase of 12% in gold value over the last year.
Rupert then answered a series of questions, mainly relating to ‘green’ investments and the possible implications of switching investments in terms of risk and returns. There were lots of wider factors to consider and the situation was complex with different layers of risk, therefore it was not possible to give a definitive answer. Members were given a handout on Rathbones’ ‘Responsible Capitalism’ for information.
Cllr Dyer thanked them both for the update which had provided the Town Council with reassurance.
4 Citizens Advice
Jon Bright, Director of Citizens Advice for Oxfordshire South & Vale, reported a 30% increase in clients over the last 3 years. The service continues to be under some pressure due to cuts to funding from SODC, but is managing. Citizens Advice continued to have a good level of impact. Mr Bright reported that nationally Citizens Advice is having a positive impact on people who approach them with self-reporting health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression. The advice centre in Thame had seen almost 2,500 clients in 2018/19, an increase of 10% on the previous year, of which 800 were residents of Thame up quite significantly from 630 last year.
The top services which Citizens Advice assists with in Thame, which was also reflected across the whole organisation, were benefits and tax credits; debt; employment; housing; and relationships / family. Mr Bright gave an example of someone who had approached them having left a violent relationship, and Citizens Advice had given an effective response which was made possible by teamwork with other agencies.
Citizens Advice were grateful for the Town Council’s annual grant and continued support. The service in Thame needs more volunteers, not just advisors but also receptionists, administrators and IT support. In light of further funding cuts from SODC, Citizens Advice continues to seek connections to funding.
This year Citizens Advice celebrated 80 years and the Thame service celebrated 40 years.
After Mr Bright answered a number of questions, the Town Council expressed their thanks and gratitude to the Citizens Advice service for all they do. The Town Council also offered to promote the plea for volunteers and funding opportunities via its e-newsletter.
5 Public Participation and Public Questions
Kim Sherley and Dave Sellwood came to speak in support of their proposal for a car boot sale (Agenda Item 17) on alternative Sundays during the summer months on Southern Road Recreation Ground and they were happy to answer any questions regarding this.
They explained that the car boot sales would only be held when the ground was hard, and inspections would be undertaken prior to the car boot sales with appropriate advance notice given. The organisers would make the decision, although as landowners the Town Council would have the final say.
A question was raised as to whether the Showground had been considered as this would have less impact on residential properties? Ms Sherley advised that they had had no reply to their enquiry at the Showground although agreed that it would be a logistically simpler location, adding that at the Recreation Ground, vehicles would be able to enter the site from 7am and would start filling up from the Cuttle Brook side to minimise disruption. A question was raised as to where the vehicles would enter the site? Ms Sherley advised that vehicles would enter via the car park and entry for sellers would close at 9:30am. Cones would be placed to limit the impact on surrounding roads.
Members then discussed and made a recommendation on Agenda Item 17.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 30 July 2019 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
7 Financial Update
Members received the budget summary and balance sheet up to 30 September 2019. Members noted the purchases authorised by the Town Clerk under Financial Regulation 4.5.
Members also noted the following:
a) The Office Administration Manager had renewed contracts with Chipside, the DVLA, Chiltern Lifts and Everbrite all at the same terms as previously.
b) That a Councillor had asked for their Member’s Allowance to be vired to the Localism and Environmental Reserve.
8 Financial Overspends
The Town Clerk reported financial overspends on two budget line items of £400 and £250 since the last meeting of the committee which had been factored into the predicted outturn as part of the budget setting process. The Town Clerk also reported seven forecasted overspends which had been identified during the budget setting process.
9 Investment Update
The Investment Summary was noted. The portfolio continued to perform well.
10 Reports from Representatives on External Organisations
The reports were noted. Cllr Dyer thanked members for all submitting their reports.
Cllr Champken-Woods reported that he was progressing further Health Campus discussions with Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust and Montpellier.
11 Internal Audit
The first interim Internal Audit had taken place on 17 October 2019. The Internal Audit recorded that the Town Council continues to operate sound and effective financial controls and procedures. The Internal Audit Report had not highlighted any issues which warranted formal comment or recommendation.
Members thanked the Office Administration Manager and members of staff for all their hard work.
12 Thame Barns Centre
Members received the Annual Report and Accounts as presented to and approved at the Barns Centre AGM on 15 August 2019. The Town Clerk reported that the AGM had been delayed but it was a good meeting and the Barns Centre continued to perform well with a good turnover. The Town Clerk will be attending his last meeting as a trustee next week, after which his replacement, Jayne Cole, will take over as it is a requirement in the constitution that the Town Clerk is a trustee.
13 Environmental Policy
Cllr Fickling introduced version 7 of the Environmental Policy. It was the result of discussions with Officers, Councillors and the Chair of the RSA, and Cllr Fickling hoped that it was now a simple, business-like document.
Members proposed minor amendments to the wording of sections 2.3 (Procurement), 2.6 (Energy Generally) and 2.8 (Biodiversity Net Gain) mainly to provide further clarification, which were all supported. The Town Clerk added that he would make some cosmetic changes to the policy, such as clarifying what TNP2 is.
Members thanked Cllr Fickling for all she had done with regards to progressing the policy.
Cllr Francis asked whether an additional clause committing the council to investigate ‘green’ investments could be included. It was agreed that it was not suitable for this policy, but the council agreed to seek information and advice from its investment managers regarding the advantages or otherwise of the council moving its investments to supporting ‘green’ technologies and those industries that are likely to be needed to mitigate against climate change, now and in the future, and act upon that advice.
Cllr Fickling requested, under Standing Order 6.1, that the vote for Environmental Policy was recorded. Members voted unanimously to support the Environmental Policy with the suggested amendments.
i) The Environmental Policy be adopted with the amendments to sections 2.3, 2.6 and 2.8 as agreed, and cosmetic changes by the Town Clerk.
14 Severe Weather Policy
The Asset Manager explained that the policy had been reviewed and updated to remove reference to individual names and replace them with the relevant job titles to futureproof the policy. The Appendix had been updated to reflect the current practices with regards to snow clearance in the Upper High Street car park prior to the Tuesday Market. As the Town Council had purchased a snow plough, the Maintenance Supervisor was now responsible for clearing the car park rather than an external contractor.
Cllr Champken-Woods thanked the Maintenance Team for clearing the snow at Ludsden Grove near Barley Hill School earlier in the year.
i) The cosmetically updated Severe Weather Policy and its supporting appendixes be adopted.
15 Stones Close Allotments
The Town Clerk explained that the allotments were well managed through a partnership agreement between the Town Council and Stones Close Allotment Association. The renewed partnership agreement had some cosmetic changes to the rules and there were no changes to the rent arrangements.
i) The annual rent payable by the Management Committee for the period 2019-20 is £300.
ii) The sealing of the updated agreement is authorised.
16 Thame Museum External Condition Survey
The reports were noted. The Asset Manager explained that an External Condition Survey was undertaken by Ridge on 22 August 2019. The survey had identified the main weak point in the roof as the glazed timber framed lantern on the roof and the lead around it, and made recommendations for repair. Ridge were unable to obtain safe access to the roof but were able to use a camera and have made recommendations based on this. They suggest that when a contractor is appointed and scaffolding is in place, they will return to make a further inspection which may identify further remedial works.
The survey report identified some other issues relating to the gutters, downpipes and damp at the entrance to the museum.
A question was raised as to how often the rainwater issues are checked? The Asset Manager advised that the Maintenance Team will be checking the gutters.
i) Remedial works, as recommended in the Report, are carried out and the shortfall in funding is met through General Reserves.
17 Car Boot Sale
Some Members raised concern that the proposed car boot sale at Southern Road Recreation Ground would be disruptive to the neighbouring residents in terms of noise, parking and traffic, particularly on a Sunday morning, and concern was raised with regards to the safety surrounding the play area. However the car boot sale would encourage people to recycle and reduce their contribution to landfill, whilst also generating a good income for the Town Council. There was a suggestion for a pilot scheme to run for a few months, but a motion to amend the resolution to that effect fell.
The motions to support the original proposal at SRRG fell. However the Town Council was not entirely against a Car Boot Sale in Thame, subject to a more appropriate location being identified.
It was agreed that the Town Council would assist where it could in engagement with the Showground as an alternative location.
18 Thame Players Grant Funding
Members noted the report. The Town Clerk explained that Thame Players had applied, through this year’s grant scheme, for funding of £820 towards a projector which was no longer required, and were now requesting for that unspent money to be redirected to upgrade the sound system at the theatre. The request had highlighted that the Grant Award Policy does not contain any clear guidelines for reallocation of grant monies.
After some discussion, it was felt that as Thame Players had been honest and approached the Town Council, on this occasion the Policy & Resources Committee should approve their grant request independently of the Grant Awards Policy. This policy required reviewing and updating in order to define the procedure for similar requests in the future.
i) The Grant Awards Policy be reviewed and discussed at the next Policy & Resources Committee.
ii) The Policy & Resources Committee approve the grant request from Thame Players.
19 Free Use / De-Minimis Delegated Authority
Members noted that the Town Clerk through De Minimis delegated authority, has granted the following:
a) Free use of Town Hall meeting room for monthly SOHA 2 hour drop-ins (five month trial)
b) Free use of Upper Chamber for Tennis Club AGM (whilst clubhouse being rebuilt) – 04/11/19
c) Free use of Upper Chamber for Thame Sports Club AGM (whilst clubhouse being rebuilt) – 25/11/19
d) Charity rate to Oxfordshire County Music Service for Easter concert
e) 10 hours of free evening use of Upper chamber for Thame & District Day Centre
20 Compliments and Complaints
Members noted the report.
Cllr Francis expressed dislike towards the Gateway Signs installed earlier this year, referring particularly to the size of the font of the twinned towns. The Town Clerk advised that Officers were already progressing this with Oxfordshire County Council who had given final approval and sign-off to the designs, in the hope that they would fund the changes.
21 Staffing Update
Members noted the staffing updates.
22 For Information
Members noted the items for information.
The Town Clerk highlighted the CCTV report whereby a horse was spotted tied up outside one of the High Street pubs. The operators had managed to locate the owner and the horse was ridden out of town!
The meeting concluded at 8:32pm.
Chairman, 18 February 2020